Dealing with Conflict: Knowing When the Battle Is Internal

Posted on 01 August 2011

“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” ~African Proverb

Sometimes, we all need to ascertain whether we’re inadvertently contributing to the struggles and challenges we face.

When we have to deal with a tough issue, it can be hard to decipher whether it is truly an objective problem, or if we have (at least some) subconscious ownership of it.

This is especially hard since the biggest challenges in our lives are typically intricate and complex. Human nature leads us to believe that other people are at fault when we experience conflict, that we have been “wronged.”

If we look closely, we’ll see that our actions and reactions are useful tools, as they provide insight into our own perceptions and can fuel personal growth and development.

I am a glass-half-full person. I operate under the belief that the more I take care of myself, my life, and my own happiness, the more I can give to others, especially my loved ones.

But recently I hit a wall. It entailed a series of events over a two-week period when every part of my life seemed to be straining under the presence of a dark, erratic storm.

I had been very busy in my job and had stopped enjoying it. My relationships with my colleagues had become so tense that I was close to jumping ship. My patience had practically disappeared, leading to stress and anxiety.

I was struggling to keep my (sometimes) short temper in check. Even when dealing with small challenges, I was seeing red at every opportunity. I was arguing with my partner, interpreting his every move as a threat to my already delicate and vulnerable state of mind.

What was wrong? Put simply, I just wasn’t right. There I was, brought to my knees by an emotional hurricane charging through my life and everything in its path, and I just couldn’t understand why.

Was it a twisted coincidence that all the areas of my life were simultaneously conspiring against me? Was life simply testing my patience, strength, and resilience? Or was there something personal going on?

After avoidance, quiet contemplation, and then much careful thought, I had an epiphany—the kind of realization that completely floors you, a “eureka” moment, if you will.

The wall I faced was actually a mirror.It forced me to confront things that I had been ignoring. I had stopped doing the things that I love, the things that keep me strong. Basically, I was in need of emotional, mental, and spiritual TLC. 

I had outwardly projected my internal struggle onto my surrounding world, and it was being reflected right back at me, compelling me to notice—refusing to let me bury my head in the sand for the umpteenth time.

Because I had tunnel vision regarding my external difficulties, I couldn’t see the real source of conflict: I had neglected to nurture my core. Even though I did this for a brief period of time, this still affected me in a profound way.

We all have different levels of “holistic care and maintenance.” Mine happens to be high.

I love being independent, spending quality time alone, enjoying and exploring my creative strengths, connecting with my loved ones, living life fully and joyfully, and appreciating the small things that make me happy every single day.

But during this particular time, I settled for a poor level of emotional holistic care.

Realizing this reminded me how delicate and vulnerable each of us can become when we forget about ourselves and our needs.

When daily life and all its trappings take over, we can sometimes lose ourselves and neglect to do the things that help keep us strong—and that can lead to conflict all around us.

If you’re struggling with various challenges and wondering if the root may be something internal, these tips may help you find out:

1. Be brutally honest with yourself.

This is hard.It’s the kind of honest that is scary, but ultimately liberating. This will help set you free from blinkered thinking and open your mind to new perspectives on what you are really dealing with.

Try writing down your feelings. Have a brainstorming session and write down anything that pops into your mind. You might even be surprised by what comes up.

This is a great opportunity to really explore and process your emotions. This freestyle approach can help lead you to identifying what is really troubling you.

2. Ask yourself: What is my mirror showing me?

Is this immediate problem really the issue, or does it highlight something else that you need to pay attention to?

This is built on the previous step of honesty. Take a good look at that mirror and don’t let fear prevent you from receiving its message. Have an open heart and mind, and welcome the opportunity to learn from this experience and grow into a stronger, more aware person.

Of course, there will be times when the problem does not reflect any internal struggle or conflict. You’ll only know if you get radically honest with yourself.

3. Ascertain your ideal “holistic care and maintenance” level.

This is very important. What do you need every day to support you in being the best person that you can possibly be?This is different for everyone, and yours will be as unique and individual as you are.

Try making a list of things that you love doing every day, which support you in being a strong, empowered, present, happy person.

These things don’t have to be grand or fancy. They can be anything that reminds you who you are, why you are amazing, and why you love yourself. For example: being a great parent, appreciating the great outdoors, or indulging in your hobbies. Extend your list when you discover something new.

We all strive for peace, purpose, and happiness in our own unique ways, and this is something we must never lose sight of.

At the end of every day, if we have lived in accordance with our personal beliefs and principles, taken care of our emotional needs, and nurtured our hearts, minds, and souls, there is little room left for conflict or struggle.

Photo by lululemon athletica

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